The Pirates of Somalia

When Jay Bahadur (played by Evan Peters) wrote a term paper about the peaceful transfer of power in Somalia’s democracy, he was hoping for a career as a writer. But after being turned down by publishers on his first efforts, he unexpectedly ran into a famous journalist, Seymour Tolbin (Al Pacino), who encouraged him to become an investigative journalist. After an invitation from the son of Somalia’s prime minister, he flew to the country in 2008 (though filming is in South Africa) and was given a guided tour of the so-called terrorists in semiautonomous Puntland. His experience led him to write The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World (2011), which opened the eyes of the world to the fact that Somalia was not a “failed state” of jihadists but instead a country that merited diplomatic recognition. The Pirates of Somalia, directed by Bryan Buckley, tells of  experiences early in his career. But the depiction has two problems: One is that the English-speaking Somalians can scarcely be heard due to their accent, so their messages are difficult to discern without subtitles, something that director Ken Loach was forced to utilize to understand upcountry English and Scottish. The second element that may disturb some viewers is the punkish way in which Bahadur and Tolbin are portrayed. Nevertheless, the Political Film Society has nominated The Pirates of Somalia for best film exposé and best film on peace of 2017. MH